Thursday, 1 March 2018

Dedication to Duty

This chilly weather reminds me of a day last century when winter was winter and men were men. I was on duty in Wick Radio, a marine radio station which maintained two distress watches and handled essential traffic. Some of us trudged from outlying hamlets through a blinding blizzard and drifts to be there for the shift. One of the lads made it from the airport, a mile and a half away, but his next door neighbour failed to turn up. That was worrying – “is he OK?” we wondered. Eventually, the chap who made it from the airport volunteered to go back and check on his mate’s wellbeing. A couple of hours later he was back – alone. “What’s happened?” we wondered, “where is he?”

“He says he’s snowed in,” was the answer

Monday, 26 February 2018


Just heard that Radio Officer Sandy McIvor has died. He was in his 90s so it had to be. Sandy and I go back a long way. In the 1950s I was posted to Wick Radio/GKR in Caithness. At that time my dad worked in the Inspectorate of Fighting Vehicles in Manchester. One of his workmates was a guy called Ron Deardon. In conversation dad told Ron that his son, me, had been sent to Wick Radio. To which Ron replied, “My mate, Sandy McIvor, used to work there, ask your son if he knows him. And, of course, I did. He was my workmate.

This revealed a fascinating story. Sandy and Ron were radio officers in the M N during the war. At one stage they both ended up aboard separate ships in the same convoy. They were both torpedoed and ended up in their own ship’s lifeboat. Then they were both rescued by the same Canadian warship that had gone hunting for survivors, taken to Canada where they became friends, then shipped back to Blighty in the same vessel.

They both went back to sea but stayed in touch. Shortly after the war Sandy spent one of his leaves at Ron’s house in Manchester. There he met a German girl called Rose who came over to England as a student and lodged in the house next door to Ron. They fell in love. Then, with much opposition from Rose’s father, they married. Ron was the best man at their wedding. Then Ron came ashore and ended up working alongside my dad. A decade later, 600 miles of the north, I ended up working alongside Sandy who had also come ashore.

This story says a lot about human nature. Straight away after the war, Rose, from Munich, came to Manchester to study. Sandy and Ron, survivors of the Battle of the Atlantic accepted her without question. Rose told her father, “accept this Brit or lose me.” Sandy married her, Ron was best man. Sandy and Rose went to her father’s house every year on holiday.